We even lost to the Indonesians in sepak takraw, managing only the bronze medal after losing to the Thais and Indonesians respectively.
But our athletes, officials and media are facing antagonism daily, whipped up by just about anyone at every venue where Malaysians are competing. At some point, it was either plain madness or simply childishness, depending on how you look at it.
The Malaysian team has accepted the fact that the Indonesian crowd would openly show their contempt and disrespect to our national anthem by refusing to stand up when it is played. But it’s gone beyond that – whenever the Negaraku is played, the crowd would blare horns, shout and jeer.
There have also been instances where Indonesian fans held up their middle fingers, in a symbolic “up-yours” protest, to photographers whenever Malaysians compete.
This lack of finesse and unsporting behaviour reached an outrageous level when Malaysian newsmen were banned from covering the last day of the swimming event.
An official identified as Chris Ardi Toruan forgot that his role was to ensure the smooth running of the event and instead turned into an instigator and almost caused a brawl.
The official in charge of gate entry was not only rude and threatening but yelled to the crowd: “Ini semua orang Malaysia! Tak ada otak semua. (These are all Malaysians, They don’t have brains.)”
He then reportedly turned to the small group of Malaysian journalists and said: “This is our country! If you don’t like it, you can get out!”
Let’s not even consider the part of being the gracious host, or Asean solidarity. But forget about the much touted “bangsa serumpun” (same racial group) and the so-called commonality of a close neighbour? All of these flew out of the window at the Games.
Malaysian officials and even dignitaries also found their seats “lost” to Indonesian officials, often army generals, at certain events.
But we have considered such instances as being too minor to even bring up, preferring to understand that these glitches are part of any big event.
There have also been accusations that venues were changed at the last minute without informing the finalists and pressmen, resulting in much last-minute anxiety and pressure. But again, beyond the complaints, these have been accepted.
However, there are private grumbles that these were made to give the Indonesians an advantage. No one really has evidence to back these, but it is the open display of hostility from the crowd that is really a matter of concern. Sometimes, this is egged on by the officials and local media.
Each time Malaysian athletes score a point in whatever event, they are mocked, provoked and jeered.
We understand such rivalry in games like badminton and football, but pole vault? Our athlete Roslinda Samsu had to put up with a hostile crowd but that did not stop her from grabbing a gold medal. She even rewrote her SEA Games record.
In synchronised diving, Malaysians again faced an angry crowd of Indonesians but our duo, Leong Mun Yee and Wendy Ng Yan Yee, rose to the occasion to grab the gold medal.
We can never go back to the original spirit of the SEAP Games in 1959 when there was genuine goodwill and gentlemanly competition.
Perhaps it is the same with all games where warped national pride and individual egoism with sponsorship money within sight have a real impact on performance.
It also doesn’t help that politicians are now dominating sports associations. They all use wins to push their popularity.
Worse, we all know that nations use nationalism, even at sports events, to unite their country, especially in the face of domestic political issues.
In the game of one-upmanship, rather than sportsmanship, there is hardly any home-grown talents in Singapore. We all know foreigners are being given citizenships to win medals, and the Singapore national football team is now made up of Europeans, Africans, Chinese and Koreans being passed off as Singaporeans.
Winning is important but it isn’t everything. Certainly, there must be honour and respect. Open hatred towards your guests is totally unacceptable and a complete disgrace. Shame on the hostile crowd who does not understand the spirit of friendship.